Elderly woman looks sadly out the window.

(© De Visu - stock.adobe.com)

HONG KONG — Being unhappy or experiencing loneliness accelerates the aging process more than smoking, according to new research. An international team says unhappiness damages the body’s biological clock, increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses.

The team reports that they detected aging acceleration among people with a history of stroke, liver and lung diseases, smoking, and in people with a vulnerable mental state. Interestingly, feeling hopeless, unhappy, and lonely displayed a connection to increasing a patient’s biological age more than the harmful impact of smoking.

The findings are based on the first “aging clock” study of its kind, trained and verified with blood and biometric data from almost 12,000 Chinese adults.

“We demonstrate psychological factors, such as feeling unhappy or being lonely, add up to one year and eight months to one’s biological age,” says study author Dr. Fedor Galkin from start-up Deep Longevity Limited, according to a statement from SWNS.

“The aggregate effect exceeds the effects of biological sex, living area and marital and smoking status. We conclude the psychological component should not be ignored in aging studies due to its significant impact on biological age.”

Aging clocks can catch the problem early

The international team’s tool bridges the gap between the concepts of biological and psychological aging. It shows mental health has a stronger effect on the pace of aging compared to a number of health conditions and lifestyle habits. Molecular damage accumulates and contributes to the development of frailty and serious diseases. In some people, these processes are more intense — a condition scientists refer to as accelerated aging.

Fortunately, researchers say the increased pace of aging is detectable by modern science before it results in disastrous consequences. These “aging clocks” can also help create anti-aging therapies on individual and large-scale levels. However, any treatments need to focus on mental health as much as physical health, the researchers note.

The team measured the effects of being lonely, having restless sleep, or feeling unhappy on the pace of aging and found it to be significant. Other factors linked to aging acceleration include being single and living in a rural area, due to the low availability of medical services.

“Mental and psychosocial states are some of the most robust predictors of health outcomes — and quality of life — yet they have largely been omitted from modern healthcare,” says corresponding author Manuel Faria, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, in a media release.

Loneliness is global issue that’s spreading

Last month, a worldwide study found loneliness increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by almost a third. A Harvard University analysis described 18 to 22-year-olds (Gen Z) as the “loneliest generation.” Data also suggests loneliness increased during the pandemic, with young adults under 25, older adults, women, and low-income individuals feeling the effects the most.

Co-author Dr. Alex Zhavoronkov, CEO of Insilico Medicine, adds the “clock” provides a course of action to “slow down or even reverse psychological aging on a national scale.” Earlier this year, Deep Longevity released an AI-guided mental health web service called FuturSelf.AI.

It offers a free assessment that provides a comprehensive report on a user’s psychological age as well as current and future mental well-being.

“FuturSelf.AI, in combination with the study of older Chinese adults, positions Deep Longevity at the forefront of biogerontological research,” says Deepankar Nayak, CEO of Deep Longevity.

The findings appear in the journal Aging-US.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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  1. Scott Drake says:

    As a conservative born/raised and living in Seattle, I am totally alone, all of the time. The “diversity” here is thus killing me. My city left me some 20 years ago. Obtuse liberals make for a lonely life here. I simply can’t talk to my neighbors any longer, as they never apologize for the mess(es) they create and double down on. Soon moving to friendlier confines.

    1. Glenn Falcon says:

      One woman moved to New York City from the west coast and was talking to her pastor.

      “What were the folks like where you used to live,”, he asked?

      “Wonderful,” she replied. “Kind, generous, and friendly. What are they like here?”

      “They’re the same,” he answered.

      The other woman talked to the pastor the next day and he asked the same question to her.

      “What were they like,” she responded. “Cold, snotty, and too busy to give you the time of the day. What are they like here?”

      “You’ll find them pretty much the same,” he said.

    2. tom franklin says:

      Sorry to hear that you are not fitting in. it can be difficult when all that is familiar changes so much. Try to get the politics. Good luck wherever you end up and don’t think of it as “confines”

    3. Dulcinea says:

      Sounds like hell Scott. I understand the rest of Washington state has survived the scourge. Definitely move if you can. It’s probably only gonna get worse.

    4. Steve Schneider says:

      Come move to Weatherford Texas! It’s mostly conservatives that live here and no state ripoff… I mean taxes! Parker County is waiting for you my friend!

  2. Glenn Falcon says:

    What a revelation. The Buddha knew this as did the prophets of the Old Testament and Bob Marley.

  3. Lepke Buchalter says:

    Mid 70s, living alone since the early 1990s. And I’m happy. I live on a large yacht and have a private dock. I rarely talk to people. When I do it’s usually at a store or fuel dock.
    It’s quiet and peaceful. I get no nagging, whining or complaining from some unhappy woman dragging me down. I think this article pertains to women, not men. Most women are unhappy and it get worse as they age.
    If I was supporting some woman I probably couldn’t afford the boat and would be living in a house, neighborhood, city that I hate.

    1. Dave says:

      I am 69, I have lived alone, all my life, happy. I have beautiful ocean and harbor views. Beach in the back yard. Then, I started seeing a woman three years ago. What a mistake. You have to start talking like a Swiss diplomat to them. Even that doesn’t work. Women are miserable inside. The guys have finally gotten it. Marriage rates are at their all time low, since the government started keeping records, in 1867. What some fun? Watch You Tube, search: Karens.

    2. Dulcinea says:

      LOL! I think you have met your match in yourself!

    3. john says:

      I agree 100%. Unless you reside in the middle of nowhere, you will at some point have contact with humans, for what it’s worth. Get yourself a dog, you’ll never be happier.